We have photographs of Dave’s great-Grandparents in our kitchen. Up in that empty space above the cabinets. Right next to my vintage Sandwich Glass canisters. Their faces without smiles. Their bodies rigid. Slight blurs where people moved. You can’t tell what kind of people they were from their photos. Dave’s Grandma scribbled notes on the back for us, so I know who is who and when they came to America speaking Czech.
Dave’s great-Grandpa came to the States, fought in WWI, then died of a heart attack while working his farm. Leaving his wife without a husband and girls without a father.
Adelaide is in Summer School. I think they call it Kindercamp. She’s transitioning from the preschool to her new k-4 elementary school. Getting to know her new teachers, classrooms, and routines. We can’t leave our little city when Adelaide is in school. At any moment, she could need us due to a seizure or a meltdown. So that means no trampoline parks, bounce houses, play dates with friends in neighboring cities. We’re on call 5 days a week from 7:40 to 1:50.
So we decided to come up with a fun tradition for Adelaide’s Summer School days. Donuts and hashbrowns. After we drop Adelaide off at school, we drive through and get a donut for Graham and a hashbrown for Bess.
We are proud frequenters of our local donut shop. It’s one in a chain, but you can’t tell. In a world of gas station and grocery store donuts, I enjoy driving through a place that uses one of those hoses to sense your vehicle and makes a huge ding. They push the sliding glass window open and take your order face to face. The menu sign is wood with vinyl stickers. The donuts are no nonsense. Their Facebook page has 100-and-some-change followers and hasn’t been updated in 8 months.
Grandma Tracy makes donuts from her mom’s recipe, and tells me stories about the beloved matriarch. She tells me about meals they made, how she stored her potatoes, how she canned meat, the little sweets she made for them, the dresses she sewed, and how they always had fresh milk. How life was different on the farm. “Those poor city kids’ moms didn’t know how to stretch the rations like we did. And we always had meat. Mom always made sure we had meat.” These stories are fascinating to me. Grandma was raised by a single mom during the Great Depression.
I chuckle thinking of all these articles written for my generation.
How will your kids remember you? Are you on your phone too often, making them feel unimportant? Do you put your phone away too often and miss those photos of everything they’ll want to remember? Are you making enough memories? Do you hug them often enough, but not too much that they’re uncomfortable? Are you reading enough books, while also making sure they play outside? Are you reading enough books outside? Will they remember you as a fun mom? Caring mom? Adventurous mom? Even-tempered mom? Confident mom? Strong mom? Godly mom? Graceful mom?
I wonder if Dave’s great-Grandma even had time to think about her legacy while she was doing the wash by hand, canning everything in sight for winter, and raising a daughter with special needs. Grandma Tracy’s sister couldn’t walk. Only attended school through the 8th grade. Had leg braces. But learned to cook fried chicken.
In May and June, we ate lots of donuts, while wearing pajamas. My kids may not even remember it someday, and it’s sad that I even wondered if they would. It’s embarrassing to admit that I actually wondered if they would remember me as the mom who let them eat donuts in pajamas. But the mantra of my generation is “Are you making memories?” Like we’re manufacturing them in a factory.
The question needs to be asked: Do I do things with my kids so they can have a good time…or am I wanting them to remember me someday as a good mom? I think it depends on the day. I hate to even say that aloud.
In previous generations, I think moms focused more on keeping their kids safe, healthy, fed, and educated. My generation is pressured into focusing on keeping our kids entertained and showing everyone now, and our kids later, that we succeeded in it. Like we’re simultaneously the activity directors and marketing team of a Summer Camp.
Grandma Tracy remembers the trips and dancing and candy. But she mostly reminisces about the day-to-day tasks. The love shown through doing what needed to be done. “She played with us in her own way. It was a good childhood, but nothing fancy. And we never once doubted she loved us.”
I have the advantage of an easier life and more time to play. But the motive behind the play matters most. Playing with my kids because I desire to spend time with them, not because I want them to think of me as a doting mom. Planning something exciting for them because I want to see them enjoy it, not because I want to be seen as an adventurous mom. Making a tradition so we can share an experience, but not expecting that to be part of my mothering identity.
I don’t know how my kids will think of me when they’re grown, but I’m done thinking about it. I’m done wondering if I’m messing them up. And I’m done over-analyzing all I do in hopes of giving them some idealistic childhood. I’m bucking the trends of my generation.
I’m just going to keep loving them well and collecting my vintage glass, which I’ll pass onto them someday. Bess will probably sell it all to buy hashbrowns.